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date: 02 December 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article explores the scholarly uses of visual sources as historical evidence in the early modern theatre in England, focusing on four related problems: the tendency of theatre scholars to depend upon reproduced illustrations, rather than original visual sources; the application of iconography and iconology to visual documents in theatre history; the seductive appeal of arguments by analogy, often put forward without supporting historical evidence; the interpretive dichotomies between a priori and a posteriori arguments, which evoke, in turn, the related dichotomies between deductive and inductive analysis, rational and empirical evidence, necessary and contingent propositions. It then presents a survey of some uses and misuses of visual sources since the publication of the first issue of Shakespeare Survey (1948), which featured visual evidence. In turn, the article sets up two cases studies that consider a few key aspects of scholarship on the Swan theatre drawing and the Longleat manuscript drawing, which apparently is based upon an eyewitness observation of a production of Titus Andronicus.

Keywords: England, visual sources, historical evidence, theatre, reproduced illustrations, iconography, iconology, visual documents, theatre history, drawing

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